"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Monday, August 26, 2013

When the Going Gets Tough....

Since the United States Congress could not decide how to combine spending cuts, tax increases, and program reforms, automatic spending cuts in particular categories of federal outlays called sequestration are now in place. Sequestration is supposed to be a blunt instrument, being applied across the board. Public schools receive some funding from the national government. Taken as an aggregate, contributions from the Federal government amount to about ten percent of the operating expenses of public K-12 schools:

Total U.S. Expenditures for Elementary and Secondary Education

Sources: NCES, "Common Core of Data," surveys and unpublished data. 
Above figure copied from US Department of Education website
The aggregate, however, does not tell the full story since the dependence of a public school on federal funds is not uniform across schools. Public schools in poor communities rely more (as much as 50-70 percent) on the national government while schools in wealthy communities do not (less than five percent). Thus, when it comes to schools, sequestration affects schools that are already facing the challenges of poverty. Sequestration is happening and it may be informational to look at how schools are coping with less funds. The following results come from a survey of school superintendents, summarizing where schools have been cutting corners to meet a balanced budget:

Above data captured from
Surviving Sequester, Round One: Schools Detail Impact of Sequester Cuts
Unfortunately, it is not straightforward to see if superintendents are employing correct prioritization in making these cuts. Some schools, for example, may not even have elective courses not required for graduation, and schools cannot really remove from its operating costs programs that do not exist. Nonetheless, the top ten choices illustrate that schools are forced to drop things that could hurt education. These are certainly not expenses that can be characterized as "fleecing of America".



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